Once again the lovely folk at Studio Ghibli and StudioCanal spoil us rotten with new Bluray releases of classic Ghibli films this month. First up is my all-time favourite film (ever!)… “My Neighbour Totoro”. Ostensibly a children’s movie, but a film so magical, wonderful, intelligent and moving that anyone of any age can, and will enjoy it. A charming tale about 10-year-old Saksuki and her inquisitive younger sister Mei who move to a new home in the country to be closer to their mother in hospital. Far from the bustle of the city, they discover a mysterious place of spirits and magic, and the friendship of the big fluffy Totoro woodland creatures.
I never tire of this movie, it works on so many levels. From the magic and mystery of childhood, and the issues children face when faced with the illness of a parent, to ecological concerns and the way that man used to be in harmony with nature. But then it is also a fantastic fantasy adventure, with unique creatures – from the small, medium & large Totoros (think big fluffy plushy bunnies…sort of) to the agile and wily Cat-bus (yes, it is a cat that is a bus…it’ll make sense when you watch the film!) Beyond that it is a coming-of-age tale, with Saksuki learning to take responsibility for herself and her sister, while also helping their hard-working father whilst their mother is in hospital. But then again the film is also about how we can, and should, live with nature, look after the countryside and balance our need for space & technology with nature’s need for our patience and compassion.
With Totoro, the master Hayao Miyazaki created a near-perfect film, entertaining, educational, exciting, wondrous and full of warmth. But he also created the Ghibli studio, the Ghibli logo and even a Ghibli/Totoro foundation that attempts to rescue old Japanese countryside from development and return it to its original state. He also laid down a touch-stone for his films that would follow – of quality, uniqueness, accessibility and fun. My Neighbour Totoro isn’t just a film about big fluffy bunny creatures, it is the start of a true revolution in animated films.
With this new bluray edition we get to enjoy Totoro in a whole new way. The restoration/upscale is phenomenal, with colours outstandingly vibrant and no hint of blurriness or colour-bleed. As someone who has watched the original DVDs endless times, I was truly shocked at the improvement in quality, and on such an old film. I would dearly love to see a feature on how they are achieving these amazing results. I can honestly say that the bluray edition is worth any Ghibli fan owning, it is almost like seeing the film new all over again.
And then there are the bonus features. Not surprisingly, since this is Studio Ghibli’s biggest title (alongside Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle) they have added some very tasty extra items. A full list is below, with several new items that haven’t been included on older DVD editions, but one that stands out is a set of excerpts from a Japanese TV programme looking at the real-world inspirations for Miyazaki and how many Japanese are seeing the worth of saving these beautiful places. These are extra definitely worth watching.
As usual you get the original Japanese audio track plus the English/American dub. The English dub is pretty good, but I would recommend the Japanese original for slightly more depth of character and emotion. There are some great US voices, but the dub isn’t quite up to the standards of Spirited Away, Howl or Ponyo.
Surprisingly the only omission, still, is an HD trailer for the Ghibli collection…we still get the tired old DVD (almost VHS) quality trailer. It is about time Ghibli created a spangly hi-def trailer, they certainly have the material to make it by now!
So go forth and buy My Neighbour Totoro on bluray, you won’t be let-down. It is a superb film, in a beautiful presentation with great-value extras. What more could you ask for? Well, maybe a limited edition version with a Totoro plush toy…but then that’s just me, a self-confessed Totoroholic!
Extras: Storyboards / Creating My Neighbor Totoro (new!) / Creating the Characters (new!) / The Totoro Experience (new!) / Producer’s Perspective: Creating Ghibli (new!) / The Locations of Totoro (new!) / Scoring Miyazaki (new!) / Behind the Microphone / Textless Opening / Textless Closing / Original Japanese Theatrical Trailers / Studio Ghibli Collection Trailers